District 9

Inciting Event: While in the midst of illegally evicting the Prauns from their slum homes, Wikus accidentally sprays himself with black liquid from a piece of alien tech. The timing here is a little off (I initially thought the arrival at the slum to start the evictions must be the Inciting Event), but this is clearly the moment where the protagonist first encounters the source of the conflict. It’s also the swivel for the First Act: prior to this moment, Wikus’s gleeful focus is on his job; after this moment, his focus is on his symptoms.

First Plot Point: After fainting during his party and being taken to the hospital, Wikus’s broken arm is unwrapped, and it is discovered that it has morphed into alien tentacles. Talk about leaving your normal world! Originally, when I plotted this and thought the Inciting Event was the arrival at the slums to start the eviction, I pondered whether Wikus’s getting sprayed might not be the First Plot Point. But we can see how much better and more dynamic a moment the First Plot Point becomes when it’s something as obvious and dramatic as the protaognist’s discovering he’s becoming an alien.

This is also a good example of how the Inciting Event pushes the character toward the end of his Normal World but does not end the Normal World in itself. The Normal World can’t end until the character recognizes that it has ended (which Wikus clearly does upon the discovery of his arm). Upon that discover, the character enters the adventure world of the Second Act. That will always be the First Plot Point.

First Pinch Point: Wikus’s boss consents to his being vivisected to study his biology. Before the doctors can cut him open, Wikus escapes. It is Wikus’s escape that is the true turning point here. On the surface, this would seem to be a poor plot point, since it’s actually a victory for Wikus and not an emphasis of the antagonist’s power. But it does force Wikus into life as a fugitive, which is clearly not a victory for him. The threat of vivisection is also a dramatic ramping of thes takes that shows what will happen to him if he is recaptured.

Midpoint: Wikus collapses in the shack of Christopher the alien, who tells him it’s the alien tech that is transforming him into a Praun. Wikus also learns that Christopher needs the cylinder that originally sprayed him in order to return to the mothership and take his son home to their planet. The alliance that forms here—thanks to Wikus’s and Christopher’s goals intersecting—marks the shift in the conflict. Instead of running away from the government agents who are chasing him, Wikus and Christopher now plan to attack the base to find the cylinder. It also marks the beginning of Wikus’s change in mindset as he becomes friends with Christopher and starts to realize how horrible the Prauns’ lives are.

Second Pinch Point: Wikus and Christopher infiltrate the government base and the mercs are told to use live ammo against them. The DVD on which I was watching this movie had a scratch, and I missed the next ten minutes, so it’s possible some of my plotting is a little wonky here, but it feels right, since this is an obvious turning point in the middle of the Second Act.

Third Plot Point: This is right about when my DVD started working again, so it’s possible I missed something prior to this, but I’m saying the Third Plot Point is the moment when Wikus is captured by the Nigerian gangsters, who want to eat his alien arm in an attempt to gain control over the alien weapons.

Climax: On the brink of running away with the alien armor robot in order to save himself, Wikus hears the mercs decide to kill a captured Christopher, and he decides to return to sacrifice himself to save the alien. This heats up the final action sequence, but it’s also noteworthy because of the personal turning point Wikus undergoes here. He finally and fully decides to embrace the Prauns as worth fighting for. In a sense, he’s also embracing the alien side of himself.

Climactic Moment: Christopher and his son leave in the mothership. Wikus didn’t get what he was after for most of the story (he still turns into a Praun), but you can see the peace in his eyes as his inner conflict dissipates and ends here.

Resolution: Wikus turns completely into an alien, while he waits for Christopher to return, as he promised, to save all the Prauns in three years.

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